Not since Rod Laver claimed the calendar Grand Slam in 1969 had a tennis player won at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year.
However, what Rafael Nadal achieved in 2010 was not only rare but unique.
The 24-year-old Spaniard became the first player ever to win the year’s last three Grand Slams on three different surfaces, taking the titles on clay, grass and hard courts.
Until 1974, the US Open was played on grass, eventually moving to its current home at Flushing Meadows in 1978.
With the Australian Open also being played on lawns until 1987, players with a grassorientated game used to have a massive advantage in the prestigious Grand Slam events.
That is of course no longer the case, with only Bjorn Borg (1980) and Roger Federer (2009) coming close to winning the year’s final three slams since 1978, taking the titles at the French Open and Wimbledon only to lose in the final of the US Open.
But what had eluded the greatest players of all time was accomplished by Nadal over the past 12 months, an especially remarkable achievement when you consider the type of player the Majorcan was at the start of his career.
It may sound awfully strange now, but less than three years ago, Nadal was regarded as a relatively one-dimensional player.
He won his fourth straight French Open in May 2008, but despite his undoubted greatness on clay, there were those who still questioned if he could be the best in the world on other surfaces.
Nadal ended any such doubts by taking Wimbledon in 2008 before winning the Aussie Open the following year.
He had dethroned Federer as the world number 1 and looked set to dominate his sport for many years to come.
However, knee injuries left him without a title for almost a year, a drought that began in May 2009 and didn’t end until the Monte Carlo tournament in April of this year.
Once more, some experts questioned if Nadal would ever realize his potential. And yet again, he proved why he will be remembered as a truly great player.
Fifteen months after Federer became the sixth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles, Nadal became the seventh in 2010 when he won the US Open.
During a dominant season, he wrested back the No. 1 ranking from Federer, and racked up seven titles, including a record-breaking 18th Masters Series win.
With an Olympic singles gold and two Davis Cup titles already in the bag, Nadal is quickly running out of major prizes to win.
It is unlikely that any one will ever doubt Nadal again, and it seems like his reign as king of men’s tennis will continue for as long as he’s healthy.
As long as he maintains his hunger and tenacity for the game, nothing seems out of reach for Nadal.
He achieved unique success because he is a unique player, and in 2010, there was no one better in tennis or in all of world sport.Click here to enter Jpost